We are experiencing a mentoring crisis today. Kregel Publications just released our new book based on research conducted by my friend and former student Barbara Neumann that explores a new approach that we believe will revolutionize mentoring today. We begin with our personal stories…
Barbara's story: I vividly remember a time when I desperately needed someone to show the way. I was driving through the Texas panhandle headed north to Colorado. It was night and a wintery storm was visible on weather radar, but it appeared light and I wasn't too concerned. This would be a good time to mention that I am a south Texas girl who knows nothing about winter storms on radar, hence the foolish decision to keep going.
Once I was well into the middle of nowhere, the light snow turned into a nasty blizzard. Ice caked on my windshield wipers, rendering them useless. The fierce north Texas wind blew snow across the highway and eventually the road disappeared. I began to panic as I realized I couldn’t continue forward or turn back, and the darkness revealed no headlights in either direction for many miles. I was alone.
My trusty companion, my cell phone, showed no bars. I prayed out loud. Prayer accelerated to fearful pleading as I inched along an imaginary highway. I will never forget the overwhelming relief that washed over me when I made out two red taillights ahead. I was not alone on this road after all! I caught up to an eighteen-wheeler expertly navigating the treacherous highway in front of me. God mercifully gave me an experienced driver to follow to the next sign of civilization where I pulled off the highway and waited out the storm in an eight-room motel. I have blessed eighteen-wheeler drivers ever since.
I can look back to my days as a young woman and see times that a mentor could have made a huge difference in my life. I was raised in a non-Christian, alcoholic home, and was traveling alone on an invisible highway. Although I came to faith in Jesus at age twenty-two, I was still confused about life and had no one to guide me to solid ground. I wanted to be a strong woman of God but questions outweighed answers. Who is God? What does he require? How should I think or act in this situation? Available Bible teaching, though sound and insightful, came forth from male voices and perspectives. How do I live my life as a woman devoted to Christ? Many young women continue to ask these questions and seek an experienced guide to show the way. Mentoring is a primary way God provides direction for the young women that he deeply loves.
Sue's Story: Like Barbara, I was raised in a non-Christian home, deeply wounded by a dysfunctional mother, scarred, and on the road to disaster, when Jesus rescued me at age twenty-four. I too remember the red taillights ahead that led me to new life in Christ. A neighbor invited me to a women's Bible study and for the next fifteen years, God used women there to heal me. Was it mentoring, remothering, coaching, lay counseling, encouraging, advising, or training? Whatever you call it, these terms picture nuances of a powerful relationship between two women as they influence one another to wholeheartedly seek God and fully grow up in Him.
C.S. Lewis captured the essence of this relationship from the older person's perspective when he said, "Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital, who having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice." Those women surrounded me with their love. We did life together, and, yes, they gave me great advice. God used their influence to heal my heart and mind, to nurture a dynamic relationship with Almighty God, to resurrect a broken marriage, to transform my mothering, and to train me with skills that help me today as I teach and mentor, along with Barbara in a major seminary, and in our local churches.
A Barna study revealed that 6 in 10 young people walk away from the faith in the first 10 years of adult life unless they have been mentored. All of us can and should be mentoring those who come behind us. In the months ahead, I'll be sharing excerpts from our new book to equip us to mentor using new methods that I think you will find tear down any hindrances you can think of. We welcome your comments and stories.